8″ Floppies?

60 Minutes shocked to find 8-inch floppies drive nuclear deterrent.

Hmm… I wonder if they’re still running Win XP, also? I’d be more than happy to loan them a USB ZIP100 drive and a few disks, if they really need it. ūüėČ



My CPU Diary

Here’s a diary of my personal CPU history going back to my college years in the late 70s/early 80s.

Prehistoric systems

8080A – This was the processor used in the lab systems that we worked with when I was in tech college in 1979. It was programmed in octal machine code.

Z80 – Later we also had systems with this processor, the Timex Sinclair.

MOS 6502 – This processor was used in the Commodore VIC-20 machines that were used in the labs in the tech school where I worked as an equipment technician/part time instructor from 1984-1987.

MOS 6510 – This is the processor that was used in my first home computer, a Commodore SX-64 briefcase system. I learned how to program in Forth on this machine… just for fun. I’ve completely forgotten it.

Intel 80486 – This processor was in a system that I used where I worked in 1993-1994. It ran MS Windows 3.1. It was the system where I first experience Microsoft Project. I HATED that program! I also got my first taste of AutoCad on this machine. Now that was a cool program!

More “modern” systems

Intel Pentium I – This is the processor that was in the little computer that my brother gave me in 2000 after purchasing his Gateway AMD Athlon K-7 Thunderbird monster. This is the machine on which I first experienced the World Wide Web portion of the Internet. I had previously experienced USENET and Gopher on some of the older machines above.

AMD Athlon K-7 Thunderbird – This is the processor I used in the very first modern machine (ericsbane01) that I built for myself (from a bare bones system purchased at a computer fair here in Tampa). This machine was souped up a bit with a larger hdd, more RAM, and a better vid card and given to a friend of mine quite a few years ago. He still uses it.

AMD Athlon XP  РThis was the processor in my next home built machine (ericsbane02). This one was built from the case up, though, not a bare bones start. This was also the first machine on which I installed GNU/Linux РUbuntu 6.06 Dapper Drake in June of 2006. Slackware followed a few weeks later and became my primary OS almost immediately.

AMD Athlon 64  РThis processor was the heart of my ericsbane03 home built system. It was my first 64 bit system.

AMD Turion 64 X2 – This is the hearty little workhorse processor in my ericslaptop01, a Dell Inspiron 1521 given to me by pal Josh (securitybreach from Scot’s Newsletter Forums). I’m actually typing this on it right now. ūüôā

Intel Pentium M – This is the processor in the Sherman tank laptop, a Dell Latitude 610 (jenslaptop), given to me by my niece a while back. It sits on my office desk running Slackware 14/Xfce with no trouble at all.

AMD Athlon 64 X2 – This processor was the heart of my ericsbane04 (later to become ericsshop02, my current shop system). I actually bought the processor for this home build used from a fellow on eBay. The price was right!

AMD Phenom X4 – This processor was the brains of my ericsbane05, my most recent main system which crashed (bad mobo) on me just a few days ago. It was a great system… until it broke. ūüė¶

If you’ve read An Open Letter to Santa, you already know what I’m shooting for on my next system. ūüėČ

And that’s how it was…


An Open Letter to Santa

2 December 2013

Dear Santa,

My name is Eric. I’ve been a good boy all year long. I haven’t cussed, chased women, or drank to excess. With this in mind, I thought I’d send you my wish list for Christmas 2013. Here it is…

1) AMD FX-6200 3.80 GHz Six Core CPU & MSI 970A-G46 MB Bundle– $179.99

2) PATRIOT Signature Line 16GB Desktop Memory Module Kit – DDR3 With Heatshield – $124.99 (before $25 rebate)

3) Kingston V300 120GB Solid State Drive – 2.5″ Form Factor, SATA III – $89.99

4) WD Blue 250 GB Desktop Hard Drive – 3.5″ – Sata 6 Gb/s, 7200RPM, 16MB Cache – Qty: 2 – $51.99ea

5) Asus GeForce GTX 650 Ti Video Card – 1GB GDDR5 – $144.99

Total: $643.94 + TX, S/H*

*Prices as of 2 December 2013 @ tigerdirect.com

Oh, and…

6) PEACE on Earth.

–> Donations are currently being accepted to help Santa defray the cost of acquiring the items on my list without the aid of his magical elves.



Ahhnold… er, I Mean Atlas

While still in man vs. machine mode around here, I thought I’d add this interesting story…

Meet DARPA’s real-world Terminator, Atlas

DARPA and Boston Dynamics, of BigDog, Petman, and Cheetah fame, have unveiled their most advanced humanoid robot yet: Atlas. At 6’2″ (188cm) and 330lbs (150kg), Atlas is incredibly imposing; with 28 hydraulically actuated joints, LIDAR and stereo vision, a beefy on-board computer, and some of the most advanced robotic limbs ever conceived, Atlas is remarkably human-like in its behavior.

*Bold emphasis mine.

It’s no joke, either. Watch the video. It’s kinda’ creepy to see that machine moving like that. Of course, it’s a long way from a T-800, but give it time.

War = Profit. You can bet on it. These machines may fill many disaster recovery rolls, but I can guarantee you that there will be specialized models that will be utilized as killing machines. Humans are very, very good at finding new ways to kill. We’ve never turned away from any useful tool that aided in that pursuit, unfortunately.

Read the rest of this interesting article from ExtremeTech. Don’t forget to watch the video. ūüôā



20K Robots… Soon To Be 1 Million?

In light of my recent article regarding the future interaction between man and machine, I thought this appropriate.

20,000 robots are on the job in Foxconn factories

By Michael Kan
July 15, 2013 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld – Hoping to save money on labor, China’s Foxconn Technology Group could also be ushering in a new era of manufacturing as it sets its sites on putting 1 million robots to work.
Read on…



Invasion of the Data Snatchers!!!

Above here, you’ll see my new email and forum signature line.

What’s this all about you may very well be asking yourself. It’s about something that I find extremely disturbing; the continued erosion of our personal liberties in exchange for the promise of security and safety. As people from around the globe continue to swear undying enmity towards those who may, per chance, hold differing opinions regarding which bearded wise man sits up there in the clouds and manipulates the fates, governments around the world are taking this opportunity to strip us of all our liberties and freedoms that men have fought and died for over the past eons.

New technologies and methods of surveillance are being used by the governing powers to monitor and document your every word. movement, and action. They haven’t figured out how to monitor your thoughts yet, but give it time. George Orwell would be amazed. He was spot on, but a few years early. The technology had to catch up with his predictions.

Now that most communications, be they Internet or telephonic, are in digital format; it’s ever so much easier for the data to be sifted, copied, stored, etc. You couldn’t do that with analog. You would have had to actually record voice communications with some sort of recording devices; magnetic tape, for example. With digital, all they need to do is save your recent phone conversation with auntie Agatha to a file on a hard drive somewhere. They can peruse it, transcribe it, copy it, even manipulate it easily with the help of any computer. Ain’t tech great?

You better watch what you say to your auntie from now on. While you’re at it, you better be careful where you go (your cellphone is tracking you), who you are seen with (cameras everywhere), what you borrowed from the library (Anarchist’s Cookbook a big NO-NO), and definitely what you purchased from Amazon last night. It’s all out there just waiting to be picked through by whomever might be interested. They don’t have to actually go through your garbage cans late at night anymore. All your garbage is stored on servers all over the world nowadays… your credit records, medical records, consumer records, even what you’re viewing on those fancy new digital TVs via cable.

Moving out to that plywood shack in the woods and typing up your manifesto on that old Underwood typewriter is sounding more and more tempting every day, huh? Besides, it’s so much quieter out there. Watch out for those satellites and drones, though. There’s NO PLACE TO HIDE anymore. They’re watching YOU! It’s OK to be paranoid these days. Your silly delusions about THEM being out to get you might not be so silly after all. You do have a good supply of weird uncle Bob’s tinfoil hats, right?



Here’s some interesting reading for you:

NSA, FBI mine Internet firms’ data, documents show – Tampa Bay Times

Daily Report: U.S. Confirms That It Gathers Online Data – NY Times/Bits

Obama Calls Surveillance Programs Legal and Limited – NY Times

The Death of CPU Scaling – an ExtremeTech Article

I read this excellent ExtremeTech article by this morning. I’ve been wondering about this myself for the past couple years.

CPU technology seemed to be following a new path of “more is better” rather than worrying about the performance of just one core. In other words, to me anyway, it seemed as if Intel, AMD, and others had just decided that it was cheaper to stuff more processors into a slab than it was to actually design and create a single core that performed at a higher level. I’ve been noticing this trend for a few years now; ever since the Intel Core 2 Duo came out, I guess.

To be honest, and I must add that I’m no expert on this topic by a long shot, I haven’t really noticed a huge performance jump between my current AMD Phenom quad and my old AMD Athlon64 single core CPU. I’m sure there is a vast difference, at least there appears to be when perusing the spec sheets of these processors. However, for my purposes, they’re pretty much interchangeable on my system.

Hruska writes:

For decades, microprocessors followed what’s known as Dennard scaling. Dennard predicted that oxide thickness, transistor length, and transistor width could all be scaled by a constant factor. Dennard scaling is what gave Moore’s law its teeth; it’s the reason the general-purpose microprocessor was able to overtake and dominate other types of computers.

And further on:

For the past seven years, Intel and AMD have emphasized multi-core CPUs as the answer to scaling system performance, but there are multiple reasons to think the trend towards rising core counts is largely over. First and foremost, there’s the fact that adding more CPU cores never results in perfect scaling. In any parallelized program, performance is ultimately limited by the amount of serial code (code that can only be executed on one processor). This is known as Amdahl’s law.

Where is CPU technology headed? Will the corporate bean counters try to pressure the companies to satisfy their stockholder’s greed or will the drive to create a quality product prevail? All good questions. The answers will eventually affect all of us who use computers in some way on a daily basis; not to mention that fact that the world is run by computers these days. Without that little CPU in that cash register at your grocery store, that girl behind the counter can’t even figure out how to count out your change from your purchase. We’ve become dependent on this technology.

Sadly, I think it’s turning us all into mushbrains. However, that’s a topic for another time.



Further reading: The death of CPU scaling: From one core to many ‚ÄĒ and why we‚Äôre still stuck – By on February 1, 2012 on ExtremeTech.com

Something to Consider (UEFI – Secure Boot)

Will your computer’s “Secure Boot” turn out to be “Restricted Boot”?

The above is a link to an article at the Free Software Foundation regarding the latest brouhaha over Microsoft’s use of UEFI and Secure boot to possibly restrict the use of other operating systems on manufacturer’s new hardware using MS Windows 8.

Microsoft has announced that if computer makers wish to distribute machines with the Windows 8 compatibility logo, they will have to implement a measure called “Secure Boot.” However, it is currently up for grabs whether this technology will live up to its name, or will instead earn the name Restricted Boot.

I’m not sure whether this is a bunch of FUD or something that users of alternative operating systems should really be considering. Either way, you should be informed about it.

The potential Restricted Boot requirement comes as part of a specification called the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), which defines an interface between computer hardware and the software it runs. It is software that allows your computer to boot, and it is intended to replace the traditional BIOS.

Please read more about this at FSF’s site. Also, please sign the statement and show your support.



A Little Help Here, Please…

I know that a lot of very knowledgeable gurus read this site, and I’d like to ask a favor of some assistance with an unusual issue that I’m currently having. Any help would be appreciated.

This article was originally posted as a forum submission at two different forums. You can read those threads here and here for some more info and progress.

Here’s a little background for everyone…

I am running Slackware as my primary operating system and Arch as my secondary (backup) operating system on my main computer (ericsbane05). I also have installations of MS Windows XP, CentOS, and Debian on a separate hard drive.

SATA looks like this on my system:

SATA0 channel = /dev/sda, /dev/sdb
SATA1 channel = /dev/sdc, /dev/sr1
SATA2 channel = vacant, vacant

Originally, these drives were in ericsbane03 and 04 with one exception. I only had two SATA drives and one EIDE drive then. The EIDE drive was removed when building this new system and replaced with the drive /dev/sdc that you see above on the SATA1 channel (/dev/sr1 is a DVD R/W, by the way).

Arch Linux’s GRUB controls /dev/sda’s MBR and is the main bootloader for all operating systems on this system. Here’s what my menu.lst looks like:

<snip># IMPORTANT –> Arch GRUB sees /dev/sda as hd0, but /dev/sdb as hd2 (should be hd1).
# (1) Slackware64-13.37
title  Slackware Primary
root   (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/sda1 ro
initrd /boot/initrd.gz
# (2) Arch64
title  Arch Linux Secondary
root   (hd0,4)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz26 root=/dev/sda5 ro
initrd /boot/kernel26.img

# (3) MS Windows XP/SP3
title MS WIN XP Pro
root (hd2,0)
map (hd0) (hd2)
map (hd2) (hd0)
chainloader +1

# (4) CentOS64 5.6
title    CentOS Tester01
root    (hd2,5)
kernel    /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.18-238.9.1.el5 root=/dev/sdb6 ro
initrd    /boot/initrd-2.6.18-238.9.1.el5.img<snip>

You can see that Arch’s GRUB thinks that /dev/sdb is (hd2), when in fact, it should be (hd1). This was like this originally because of the hybrid EIDE/SATA setup that I had on previous systems. Now that I’m running pure SATA, I’d like to get this fixed. Here’s what I’ve done so far:

1) I manually edited /boot/grub/device.map to look like this:

(fd0)    /dev/fd0
(hd0)    /dev/sda
(hd1)    /dev/sdb
(hd2)    /dev/sdc

It was originally incorrect, but this didn’t fix the issue. GRUB was still seeing the drives incorrectly.

2) I then deleted all files from the /boot/grub directory and used pacman to uninstall GRUB completely.

3) I then reinstalled GRUB and created a new menu.lst with the correct /dev to (hd) conversions. It looks like this now:

# (1) Slackware64-13.37
title  Slackware Primary
root   (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/sda1 ro
initrd /boot/initrd.gz
# (2) Arch64
title  Arch Linux Secondary
root   (hd0,4)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz26 root=/dev/sda5 ro
initrd /boot/kernel26.img

# (3) MS Windows XP/SP3
title MS WIN XP Pro
root (hd1,0)
map (hd0) (hd1)
map (hd1) (hd0)
chainloader +1

# (4) CentOS64 5.6
title    CentOS Tester01
root    (hd1,5)
kernel    /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.18-238.9.1.el5 root=/dev/sdb6 ro
initrd    /boot/initrd-2.6.18-238.9.1.el5.img<snip>

The entries for Windows and CentOS reflect the new (and correct) device.map in /boot/grub.

4) After all this, I reinstalled GRUB to the MBR like this:

# grub-install /dev/sda

Unfortunately, GRUB is still seeing /dev/sdb as (hd2). I can get all my operating systems to boot just fine by using the wrong (hd) strings in menu.lst, but I’d really like to get GRUB to work the way it’s supposed to. I’m sure there is something simple here that I’m missing. Any help would be appreciated.



Addenda: Here’s a copy of my fdisk -l output along with notations. It might be helpful:

Disk /dev/sdb: 250.0 GB, 250000000000 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 30394 cylinders, total 488281250 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x0009e140

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdb1    *      16384    51216383    25600000    7  HPFS/NTFS/exFAT <РMS Windows XP C partition
/dev/sdb2        51232768   102432767    25600000    7  HPFS/NTFS/exFAT
/dev/sdb3       102453181   488270159   192908489+   5  Extended <Рswap
/dev/sdb5       102453183   106550639     2048728+  82  Linux swap
/dev/sdb6       106565823   137289599    15361888+  83  Linux <РCentOS /
/dev/sdb7       137304783   188501039    25598128+  83  Linux
/dev/sdb8       188516223   219239999    15361888+  83  Linux <РDebian /
/dev/sdb9       219255183   270451439    25598128+  83  Linux
/dev/sdb10      270466623   301190399    15361888+  83  Linux <Рtester /
/dev/sdb11      301205583   352401839    25598128+  83  Linux
/dev/sdb12      352417023   383140799    15361888+  83  Linux <Рtester /
/dev/sdb13      383155983   434352239    25598128+  83  Linux
/dev/sdb14      434367423   488270159    26951368+  83  Linux <Рstorage

Disk /dev/sdc: 250.1 GB, 250059350016 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 30401 cylinders, total 488397168 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x0002cd1d

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sdc1           16065   102414374    51199155   83  Linux <РSlackware backups
/dev/sdc2       102430440   204828749    51199155   83  Linux <РArch backups
/dev/sdc3       204844815   488392064   141773625    5  Extended
/dev/sdc5       204860880   307259189    51199155    b  W95 FAT32 <РMS Windows backups
/dev/sdc6       307275318   409673564    51199123+  83  Linux <Рtester backups
/dev/sdc7       409689693   488392064    39351186    b  W95 FAT32 <Рcommon storage

Disk /dev/sda: 250.1 GB, 250058268160 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 30401 cylinders, total 488395055 sectors
Units = sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x24812481

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1   *       16065    51215219    25599577+  83  Linux <РSlackware primary operating system /
/dev/sda2        51247350   153645659    51199155   83  Linux
/dev/sda3       153661725   488392064   167365170    5  Extended
/dev/sda5       153661788   204860879    25599546   83  Linux <РArch secondary operating system /
/dev/sda6       204877008   307275254    51199123+  83  Linux
/dev/sda7       307307448   311403959     2048256   82  Linux swap <Рswap
/dev/sda8       311420088   488392064    88485988+  83  Linux <Рarchives

Thanks again. ūüôā

Ericsbane05 LIVES!

What is ericsbane? Well, that’s what I name some of my computers. I also have ericslaptop01 and ericsshop01 and 02.

What a strange name this ericsbane thing. Where’d that come from? you might be wondering. The definition of bane is a person or thing that ruins or destroys or the name of a deadly poison. HA! Both are accurate sometimes when it comes to my computering hobby. Computers can be my bane, but I love ’em, anyway.

As some of you may know from reading here and here, I have been having some hardware issues with my main system. And as a sidebar to this, I’ve also been trying to put together a system for my shop. Well, it’s finally all come together. What a nightmare it’s been. Of course, if I had money to burn, this wouldn’t have been an issue at all. Unfortunately, money is very tight right now. We won’t even go into that.

So, what happened this weekend? I woke up Saturday morning jonesing to play one of my vid games on my system. S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Far Cry, Deus Ex, anything. I just wanted to frag stuff. Know what I mean? I haven’t been able to play any games on my main system due to issues with a bad PCIe socket, which has forced me to use crappy onboard graphics. Hmm… can’t play many games these days with a 2900fps framerate.

I made the mistake of going to the local CompUSA (Tiger Direct) store after seeing a really decent mobo/micro bundle advertised online. Hmm… I had spent a few bucks recently on a replacement mobo from them, but it didn’t work out, so I was given a refund. I figured that money was already spent. I had it set aside for a rainy day. Well, that day was Saturday. I went to the CompUSA and got myself a mobo/micro combo.

I came home and, after much travail and gnashing of teeth, I managed to cobble together ericsbane05. Here are the specs:

Cooler Master Chassis Mid Tower Elite 334 Nvidia Edition ATX Casing
Cooler Master Extreme Power Plus – 650watt power supply
785GTM-E45 socket AM2+ motherboard
AMD Phenom 9750 Quad-Core Processor
AMD chipset
4Gig Centon DDR2 800 PC-6400 RAM DDR 800 (slots 1 & 2)
EVGA Nvdia GeForce 450 GTS
IDE 0 Master: Master: DVD Writer 840
IDE 0 Slave: ZIP 100
SATA 0: Western Digital 250Gig
SATA 1: Western Digital 250Gig
SATA 2: Western Digital 250Gig
Standard 3.5″ floppy
Seven (7) cooling fans
HP Deskjet 842C printer
HP Scanjet 3400 flatbed scanner
HP W1907 LCD monitor
Altec Lansing (front) + Harman Kardon (rear) speakers
Dell USB keyboard
Logitech Trackball mouse

So, there ya’ have it. Here’s what the framerate on this baby looks like now:


So much gooder! I can play games again! I can shoot and frag away my frustrations. It’s better than religion, I’m telling you. Woo-hoo!

Oh, and as a by-product of this adventure, I also was able to salvage ericsbane04. I slapped the guts of that system into another box and changed its name to ericsshop02. It’s loaded with Slackware current and is sitting on the bench outside in my shop. I put ericsshop01 on the shelf as a backup system. We are just on a roll here, huh?

I have 99.9% of the kinks worked out of the new ericsbane05. There are always issues when you install pre-existing operating systems onto new hardware. There are issues with drivers, disk nomenclature, sensor daemons, GRUB, etc. I’ve got them all squared away but one, I think. I’m having a minor issue with Arch’s GRUB, the bootloader for my entire system (numerous operating systems installed). It has incorrectly mapped the hard drives. I’m working on it, though.

That, friends, is how I spent the last three days of my life. Bane, indeed. See what I mean?

We’ll have some new lessons coming along shortly. Stay tuned…

Until next time…

~Eric, the happy 19000fps framerate, fraggin’ Slacker!